I am not sure why the phrase “dog-fooding” is so popular. For those of you, who have never heard the term, dog-fooding is when a start-up typically uses the technology that it builds. I am assuming that dog food is perhaps not palatable to humans and it is distasteful and symbolizes a great sacrifice by the company, to consume it to prove that it is good. It seems like a Silicon Valley version of ‘the cook will come out and eat the food, so the king can be assured he is not going to die.
It is largely meant for IT startups because the concept may seem absurd when applied to large companies building disparate products. You can’t imagine a company that builds nuclear reactors, for instance, starting using a mini reactor for their office building. I don’t even want to think about pharma companies in the context of dog fooding.
This brings us to the question as to why the concept of dog fooding is popular in the start-up world. We are a tech start-up. We didn’t start out wanting to ‘eat our own dog food’ because we wanted to assure any king. It just happened that all of us were in different locations and due to Covid, we had to use a tool that was not too much work and was quick and simple. It slowly became our mantra going forward, we were getting so carried away by it when one of our suppliers asked to sign a document, we balked and said only if it is legit. Imagine the delusion going on at this stage.
I am the founder of Legitt and had worked with two of my co-founders in a previous company. I knew their strengths and shortcomings and we made a good team together. I had promised them a certain equity stake but the company hadn’t been formed yet. We trusted each other completely but we also lived in the real world and wanted to make sure our interests were protected. We went about building and recording legitts of our informal agreements. Doing this exercise ourselves brought up aspects of the delicate balance of a tool for informal contracts. It cannot seem too rigid; it cannot be too flexible either. It should have a social mechanism to enforce rather than just a legal one.
We also had to make sure our individual contracts stay private and we had to put policies so that access is available only to those who need it. This is key in our assurance to our customers. We also had to deal with the fact that as we add newer features and requirements, the older legitts are still accessible, etc.
An example is, that we wanted to use the same legitt for signing the document once the company was registered. We knew we had to make a distinction between a legitt that is a verbal agreement and a legitt that is associated with a document. We had to hack away and deal with possible fraud scenarios by some bad actors. All these not only improve our product but we thought of different ways to reduce the burden on an end-user.
I believe that the world is awash with new tech products. A lot of it is clunky. As in any growing industry, reliability has been the focus so far. As the industry matures, the product’s reliability is assumed as a given. In that case, customers demand ease of use, personalization, and even a sense of luxury from the everyday products that they use. I believe that we have built a product that is not only extremely reliable but extremely simple to use.
Coming back to dog fooding, I suppose this will be a good yardstick to measure some companies by. I am glad we kind of fit into that category. When I talk to prospects, their eyes usually light up and they imagine using legitts in their workplace. I have had doctors talking about consent for clinical studies, and I have had one guy talking about sending a personal legitt to his girlfriend that he plans to dump her ( he doesn’t want to text or write because it is impersonal, but doesn’t want to break up in person either ). Our reactions have been very different in each of those cases. As long as they don’t insist on me ‘dog-fooding’ their solution, this dog is a happy puppy, and hope soon, we will have other puppies joining us,